Lebanon Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigns following Beirut explosion

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Former Lebanese PM gives a speech in March. - Dalati Nohra/AP

On Monday, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced his resignation in a brief televised address following a massive explosion that rocked Beirut earlier last week, leaving over 6,000 injured and 160 dead.

In the speech, Diab said “I have discovered that corruption is bigger than the state and that the state is paralyzed by this [ruling] clique and cannot confront it or get rid of it.”

It is no surprise that Diab has resigned with swelling public anger towards authorities for improperly storing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in a port warehouse since 2014.

On multiple occasions, port authorities wrote to the local government requesting that the materials be moved to a secure location or exported. Predictably, the requests were ignored by Lebanese authorities, leading to last week’s catastrophic blast.

The consequences of the blast have been far reaching as the entire Lebanese political apparatus begins to unravel. In addition to Diab’s resignation, three other Cabinet ministers had already resigned ahead of the announcement.

At face value, a change in leaderships seems like the right move for Lebanon. But forming a new government brings forth a whole new set of complications. For one, Lebanon has been torn asunder by rival factions since the end of the civil war in the 1990’s.

One such faction is Hezbollah, which threw its support behind the Diab government from the very beginning. With the Diab government acting as caretakers until a new government is formed, all of Lebanon’s disparate factions will have to come to the table yet again to form another government.

It seems highly unlikely that a fresh government will change anything in Lebanon as factionalism continues to thrive. If Diab’s claim that the entire Lebanese political apparatus is corrupt from top to bottom is true, then any new leadership derived from the same system is bound to be tainted with corruption too.

This presents a serious problem for the Lebanese system, with increasing public demands that real changes be made. Lebanese authorities have entered into a frenzy of finger pointing and laying blame at each other’s feet since the explosion, with multiple individuals currently under arrest.

To top it off, international organizations and world leaders have pledged roughly $300 million in emergency aid to Beirut, with the caveat that Lebanese authorities must commit themselves to sweeping political and economic reforms, a classic example of the carrot and the stick.

It is unclear whether the Lebanese government will be able to meet the aid parameters.

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